What is the Supreme Court Verdict on ECI Appointments? Why Independence of the Election Commission of India is important? Read further to know.
In its ruling on March 2023, the Supreme Court of India effectively rewrote several of the Constitution’s provisions by assuming the role of the Constituent Assembly.
The Court ordered that new rules be followed pertaining to the appointment of the Election Commissioner.
What is the Supreme Court’s Verdict on ECI Appointments?
As per the latest Supreme Court Verdict on ECI Appointments, Supreme Court said that the President’s appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners will depend on the recommendations of a distinguished three-member committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
Anoop Baranwal filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in 2015, contending that successive governments failed in the constitutional obligation to set up a “fair, just and transparent process” for the selection of Election Commissioners.
The petitioner contended that the President’s appointments were based solely on the counsel of the Executive, providing significant leeway for the governing party to pick someone whose allegiance is guaranteed, which makes the selection process susceptible to manipulations and bias.
The Centre opposed the petition, saying that there was no case so far of abuse of power by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). According to the Centre, the State’s executive branch is “consciously and purposefully” involved in the appointment of Election Commissioners to the highest election body.
The dissatisfaction led the bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, to refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution Bench in October 2018 for a thorough examination.
What is the Challenge?
The question of Separation of Power arises from the Supreme Court’s ruling on the appointment of the Election Commission of India (ECI) as the Constitution places the power to make any law in this regard in the hands of Parliament. However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that its ruling is subject to any law passed by Parliament, which implies that Parliament can overturn it by passing a law.
Alternatively, some argue that since Parliament has not passed any law on this issue, the Court has a responsibility to fill the “constitutional vacuum” and provide guidance on the appointment of the ECI.
Independence of Chief Election Commissioner
The independence of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is crucial for the functioning of a fair and impartial electoral process. The CEC is responsible for overseeing the conduct of elections in a country, and they play a critical role in ensuring that elections are free, fair, and transparent.
If the CEC is not independent, it may be subject to external pressures, such as political influence or interference, which could compromise its ability to carry out its duties impartially. This can lead to a range of negative consequences, such as voter suppression, biased election results, and a loss of public confidence in the electoral process.
To prevent such scenarios, it is essential to ensure that the CEC is free from any undue influence or interference, and they are empowered to carry out their duties without fear or favor. This can be achieved through various measures, such as providing the CEC with legal protections, giving them operational autonomy, and ensuring their appointment is made in a transparent and non partisan manner.
About Chief Election Commissioner
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is the head of the Election Commission of India (ECI), which is responsible for conducting free and fair elections in India. The CEC is appointed by the President of India and is assisted by two Election Commissioners. The appointment of Election Commissioners falls under the purview of Article 324(2) of the Constitution.
Under the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, the CEC and Election Commissioners have a tenure of six years, or until they attain the age of 65, whichever is earlier.
The CEC has a range of responsibilities, including overseeing the conduct of elections, supervising the registration of political parties, enforcing the Model Code of Conduct, and resolving disputes related to elections. The CEC also has the power to disqualify candidates for electoral malpractice and to cancel an election in case of gross irregularities. The CEC plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity and fairness of the electoral process in India.
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is the head of the Election Commission of India, which is an autonomous constitutional body responsible for conducting free and fair elections in the country. The primary functions of the Chief Election Commissioner include:
Conducting Elections: The CEC is responsible for overseeing the entire electoral process in India, from the preparation of the electoral rolls to the conduct of elections and counting of votes.
Voter Education: The CEC is also responsible for educating voters on the importance of participating in elections and the electoral process. This involves organizing awareness campaigns, voter registration drives, and other activities to encourage voter participation.
Electoral Reforms: The CEC is responsible for recommending changes in the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. This includes suggestions for changes in electoral laws, rules, and regulations.
Political Party Registration: The CEC is responsible for the registration and de-registration of political parties in India. This includes ensuring that political parties follow the guidelines set by the Election Commission.
Electoral Disputes: The CEC is also responsible for resolving electoral disputes and complaints related to the conduct of elections. This involves hearing complaints from political parties and individuals and taking appropriate action.
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India is appointed by the President of India and can only be removed from office under specific circumstances outlined in the Indian Constitution.
According to Article 324 of the Indian Constitution, the CEC can be removed from office only on the grounds of proven misbehavior or incapacity. The process for removal is initiated by a petition to the President of India, signed by at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) or 50 members of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of parliament).
The petition is then referred to the Chief Justice of India, who appoints a three-member committee to investigate the charges. If the committee finds the charges to be true, the President can remove the CEC from office.
It is worth noting that the removal of the CEC is a rare occurrence, and there have been only a few instances where such action has been taken in the history of independent India. This is because the office of the CEC is considered to be non-partisan and independent, and any attempt to remove the CEC for political reasons would be viewed as a threat to the integrity of the electoral process.
Article Written By: Priti Raj